Jose A. Jimenez-Berni 1 , 2 , 3 , David M. Deery 2 , Pablo Rozas-Larraondo 1 , Anthony (Tony) G. Condon 2 , 3 , Greg J. Rebetzke 2 , Richard A. James 2 , William D. Bovill 2 , Robert T. Furbank 1 , 2 , 3 , Xavier R. R. Sirault 1 , 2 , 3
27 February 2018
Crop improvement efforts are targeting increased above-ground biomass and radiation-use efficiency as drivers for greater yield. Early ground cover and canopy height contribute to biomass production, but manual measurements of these traits, and in particular above-ground biomass, are slow and labor-intensive, more so when made at multiple developmental stages. These constraints limit the ability to capture these data in a temporal fashion, hampering insights that could be gained from multi-dimensional data. Here we demonstrate the capacity of Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR), mounted on a lightweight, mobile, ground-based platform, for rapid multi-temporal and non-destructive estimation of canopy height, ground cover and above-ground biomass. Field validation of LiDAR measurements is presented. For canopy height, strong relationships with LiDAR ( r 2 of 0.99 and root mean square error of 0.017 m) were obtained. Ground cover was estimated from LiDAR using two methodologies: red reflectance image and canopy height. In contrast to NDVI, LiDAR was not affected by saturation at high ground cover, and the comparison of both LiDAR methodologies showed strong association ( r 2 = 0.92 and slope = 1.02) at ground cover above 0.8. For above-ground biomass, a dedicated field experiment was performed with destructive biomass sampled eight times across different developmental stages. Two methodologies are presented for the estimation of biomass from LiDAR: 3D voxel index (3DVI) and 3D profile index (3DPI). The parameters involved in the calculation of 3DVI and 3DPI were optimized for each sample event from tillering to maturity, as well as generalized for any developmental stage. Individual sample point predictions were strong while predictions across all eight sample events, provided the strongest association with biomass ( r 2 = 0.93 and r 2 = 0.92) for 3DPI and 3DVI, respectively. Given these results, we believe that application of this system will provide new opportunities to deliver improved genotypes and agronomic interventions via more efficient and reliable phenotyping of these important traits in large experiments.